PACKING 101

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On my honeymoon in Hawaii I took with three suitcases filled with clothes and shoes.  Before flying from Oahu to Hawaii we decided to leave two of the suitcases in a locker at the airport so we didn’t have to dray them along (I had already learned that much).  On our return, we discovered that the luggage was missing.  Ultimately I found it in a held-luggage office; it was removed after the one-day not-well-posted limit had expired.  We had to hand over a whole lot of money to retrieve our bags.   After that lesson I began making what was, for me, a real effort not to haul so much stuff with us.  We’re now down to a 24-inch bag apiece for trips to France plus a smaller expandable bag, along with two small roll-ons that hold critical items:  medications, a day’s worth of underwear and change of clothes, extra shoes, our camera, toiletries, and other essentials in the event the checked baggage goes missing.  The roll-ons fit under the cabin seats, and one holds a  small bag with the items we will need during flights.   Over the years I have developed a system for packing. About a month before our departure I begin putting out on a table, whenever I think of them, all the little things I know we’ll need and don’t want to forget.  That pile includes such things as plastic baggies that seal, travel binoculars, folding plastic hangers, travel wash and a small clothesline, bathroom slippers, luggage keys, a large bar of bath soap in a container, a camping towel for blotting clothes before hanging to dry, soft-sided, full-sized packages of tissues, a small notebook for logging purchases and prices (essential for Customs), a small picnic kit that includes a bottle-opener and knife, earplugs, maps, guidebooks and notes, my European-voltage curling iron and hairdryer, bubblewrap, cellophane tape…things I could buy in France but don’t want to spend time hunting up.   Most of those items go into our expandable bag, which on the way over also holds one roll of paper towels for immediate use on a rental-car windshield if needed.  Depending on where we’re staying, some rolls of toilet paper are included—they make excellent padding on the way over, to be replaced by purchases on the way back.  Sometimes we add a collapsed box that will hold our guidebooks and maps so that we can ship them back home when we’re through with them.   The two dresses I normally take and my husband’s jackets go on their own hangers, each covered with a dry-cleaning bag.  The bag keeps them from wrinkling en route, and having them on a hanger makes unpacking simple and fast.  Knit shirts are folded inside other shirts to provide padding.  Socks go inside shoes; shoes go inside stretch covers. (Hint:  on the way home, wine bottles fit nicely into socks and keep them fairly safe from damage.)  Underwear goes into mesh zipped bags that can be easily lifted out and put into a drawer, and the mesh makes it easy to see what’s inside.  Extra socks are treated the same way.   We used to pack shoes and books at the bottom of our suitcases for stability, but TSA requirements now mandate spreading them out at the top for easy examination.  It’s a good idea to check the TSA web site before packing to see if there are changes and what items are not allowed in luggage these days.   Our suitcases are bright blue and bright red:  no more of those generic black that all look alike.  Once packed, they are secured with TSA-approved locks that allow inspectors to open luggage for inspection without the locks’ being damaged.  So far it’s worked.  We tag our suitcases with oversized neon-yellow labels for easy recognition in baggage-claim areas, and inside each bag we put a copy of our itinerary.  Neon-yellow covers that fasten with Velcro go over the suitcase handles.
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